Aid groups are urging the participants of the upcoming Women Foreign Ministers Meeting in Montreal to urgently address the crisis in Yemen, warning that more than five million children risk falling into famine in the war-torn country.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland along with her European Union counterpart Federica Mogherini will co-host a summit of women foreign ministers from more than a dozen countries – from tiny Andorra to regional powerhouses Indonesia and South Africa on Sept. 21 and 22.
The meeting in Montreal is being billed as “a historic opportunity to advance global peace, security and prosperity by bringing together the world’s women foreign ministers.”
“As Canada prepares to host the first-ever Women Foreign Minister’s Meeting to advance global peace and security, the crisis in Yemen – where the lack of peace and security has already led to unimaginable suffering and now starvation – must be on the agenda,” said in a statement Bill Chambers, President and CEO of Save the Children Canada.
The children’s charity is particularly concerned about renewed fighting around the critical port city of Hodeidah, Chambers said.
Threat of famine
As Hodeidah experiences renewed fighting there is a real risk its port – a vital lifeline for goods and aid for 80 per cent of Yemen’s population – could be damaged or temporarily closed, reducing the supply of available of food and fuel as well as driving up prices even further, Save the Children warned.
Lack of access to supplies from Hodeidah port would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in immediate danger while pushing millions more into famine, the charity said.
The United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths has warned that failure to keep food, fuel and aid flowing into Yemen, particularly through Hodeidah, could trigger a famine in the impoverished state where an estimated 8.4 million people are facing starvation.
“We urge Minister Freeland and her counterparts meeting in Montreal to condemn the escalation of attacks on Hodeidah, and to make every effort to allow for the continuation of investigations into potential breaches of humanitarian law,” Chambers said.
“What happens next in Hodeidah has a direct impact on girls, boys, men and women across the country.”
While having publicly raised concerns about the humanitarian impact of the war in Yemen, Canada and its Western allies are tacitly supporting the strategic aim of the Saudi and UAE-led coalition to defeat and dislodge the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. And despite its recent falling out with Riyadh, Ottawa continues lucrative sales of various weaponry to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Battle for lifeline port
The Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes on the outskirts of Hodeidah last week as heavy fighting resumed days after U.N.-sponsored talks between the warring parties collapsed.
The Houthi rebels accused the government and its Saudi-led allies of deliberately targeting food warehouses as the coalition said it had resumed a “military operation to liberate Hodeida and its port”.
“International food supply warehouses were targeted in Hodeida, a clear sign that there is a plan… to make warehouses and densely populated neighbourhoods legitimate targets,” said the head of the rebels’ Supreme Revolutionary Council, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi.
He also accused the international community of being complicit in the attacks, saying “tolerance of terrorism has only encouraged (the coalition) to plan and deliberately commit crimes”.
The fight for Hodeidah, which the Houthis seized in 2014, was put on hold for 11 weeks as the UN struggled to bring warring parties to peace talks in Geneva.
But the talks collapsed earlier this month after the northern Yemeni rebels refused to attend.
WFMM participating countries
Women Foreign Ministers will be present from the following countries:
- Costa Rica
- Saint Lucia
- South Africa
With files from AFP